Summary: Looking for the blessing in life and not dwelling on what looks like the end.
Some time ago a man was staying in a chalet in the Swiss Alps. Early one morning he heard what sounded like an earthquake. Hurriedly he got out of bed and ran to the front desk and asked if there was something wrong, if the mountains were breaking up? He was scared. The man at the front desk explained, “Sir, we are on the west side of the mountain. As the sun comes up in the east, the snow and ice expand as they begin to warm. The expansion causes a large crashing noise. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just the beginning of a new day.” (James O. Davis)
In our Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus has taken the opportunity to tell his listeners of a dark time to come. He tells them that the day will come when the temple will be destroyed. This is not only terrifying, it is nearly blasphemous to those gathered. This was the house that the Lord is dwelling in.
Can you imagine how shocked they were at the sound of these words? They were so shocked they wanted to know the day or what the signs were so they could avert the disaster I suspect.
However, Jesus could see the worry in their faces and the concern in their hearts. For in his next breath he tells them to be on their guard and make sure they are not deceived by people claiming to be a Messiah. He tells them that basically there will be a lot of things and that the temple’s fate is but a small step until He returns. In fact, he tells them not to be afraid for out of the ruins will rise some thing even greater. In other words, it is not the end of the world, just the beginning of a new day.
Remember during this time there were many in Palestine who felt the end was near. There was a community of people called the Essenes who felt so strongly that the end was near they lived in a secluded colony in Qumran, which is located near the Dead Sea. They spent their time looking for all the signs of the coming “Holy One”.
The thing is they had become so caught up in looking for the Messiah, they lost sight of what their mission was on this earth. They had taken the approach they needed to quote, “hold themselves up in a cave and wait for doomsday to come”, instead of working to bring other people to know and love God. They were living as though they were afraid, not joyous that the Holy One was coming.
As I have said, through out history, people have been attempting to predict not only the date of Christ’s return, but also the end of time. Some people come to see this scripture as the guide for what to look for when the end is near. Listen to verses 8 through 13 of Luke chapter 21.
But he said, "Take care not to be deceived, because many will come using my name and saying, `I am the one’ and `The time is near at hand.’ Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be terrified, for this is something that must happen first, but the end will not come at once." Then he said to them, "Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines in various places; there will be terrifying events and great signs from heaven. (Luke 21:8-11 NJB)
He tells us all these things that will happen, however he gives us a sign of hope and the most telling sign for us all in verses 12-13…
`But before all this happens, you will be seized and persecuted; you will be handed over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and brought before kings and governors for the sake of my name, and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. (Luke 21:12-13 NJB)
We are going to have some “birth pangs”, according to these scriptures. We see all these things that are going to happen and forget that none of these events are out of the norm until the people of God as a whole come under oppression. It is then that all those signs become the “birth pangs” for the coming age.
Satan has used all those signs to get us all stirred up and worried. Thus distracting us from the one sign we have some control over. The time when one day Christians and Jews are subject to world wide oppression, which will make the Nazi and Soviet oppression of the Jews look like a college pledge week.
That is why Jesus tells us not worry about all the conflicts in the world, as sign of the end times. He doesn’t want us to behave like the Essenes or more modern groups like the Branch Davidians who shut themselves off from the world and wait for the end to come.